I really should have known better and hindsight told me that I would have been correct – never take the word of a native Minnesotan that he knows what he is doing when it comes to shark hunting in the Red Sea. I was stationed in Ethiopia when I was in the service many decades ago and when we had time for ourselves we would often travel down to the Red Sea port of Massawa for some wonderful, relaxing time on the beaches of the Red Sea. My Minnesota friend whose first name was Berger (great name huh? That should have also been another clear warning), had a brilliant idea that he wanted to go shark hunting. Somehow he talked four of us in joining him. Of course, we had no boat, no fishing equipment, no nothing! What he did have was what I suppose was a genuine hunting knife that he supposedly used when he was hunting whatever it is one hunts in the wilds of Minnesota. Since I had never hunted a day in my life, I was going to have to take his word for the knife’s authenticity and the implied skill he must have had as a hunter.
The beaches at Massawa (see the picture attached) were made of wonderful white sand and extended out into the Red Sea for about thirty or forty yards before there was a big drop-off into very deep water. In many places there were fantastic coral formations that presented some great opportunities for snorkeling and diving. We used to watch dog sharks swimming out where the drop- off occurred and that is when Berger came up with his hunting idea. One of the group had a camera and Berger wanted to film his great expedition, so off we go in a single file line, Berger in the lead, I was directly behind him, a third friend behind me, and the camera guy bringing up the rear. We were working our way out to the sharks whose fins we could see swimming in circles out in the deep water. Did I mention that this was not a well-planned adventure? It had not occurred to any of us what exactly Berger was going to do with his knife, and I honestly thought that by the time we even got close the sharks would swim away.
That is not exactly what happened. As our single file line of intrepid hunters (and followers) approached the sharks, it became clear that they were not going to swim away. They stopped their circling and slowly began heading directly towards Berger. At that point, everybody realized it was ‘every man for himself’, and Berger threw his knife up into the air and turned and began running towards the shore. As he passed each of us, we peeled off and ran behind him in turn. It had the look and feel of some cartoon sequence, and I believe that if anyone on the beach was watching this they had be laughing out loud. As the three of us passed the camera guy, he in turn threw the camera into the air and followed us in the race to the safety of the beach. We have no idea how far the sharks followed us – no one had the presence of mind – or the courage – to turn around and check.
That was the end of the great shark hunting adventure.